Reaching a Lewy Body Dementia Diagnosis

It’s common to immediately think of Alzheimer’s disease when a loved one has dementia symptoms. But there actually are several types of dementia, and Alzheimer’s is only one of many.

Lewy body dementia is another common cause of dementia. This type of dementia covers two different disorders: dementia with Lewy bodies and Parkinson’s disease dementia.

If your loved one recently received a Lewy body dementia diagnosis, or you suspect they may be experiencing dementia symptoms, we will help you determine your next steps. 

Read on to learn about the different types of dementia, symptoms of Lewy body, and how to find the right care.

What are the Different Types of Dementia?

Dementia is a term used to describe changes in the brain that cause memory loss, difficulties performing daily activities, and usually personality and behavior changes.

These changes occur because — depending on the type — dementia affects the areas of the brain responsible for these memory and language functions.

Dementia usually is caused by a disease, such as Alzheimer’s disease

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, between 60% to 80% of dementia cases are caused by this disease, but there actually are 10 known types of dementia.

Alzheimer’s Disease: The most common type of dementia, Alzheimer’s is characterized by brain cell death. It progresses over time, with mild symptoms at first that gradually become more severe.

Vascular Dementia: This second most common form of dementia is caused by lack of blood flow to the brain. It usually occurs after someone has a stroke, and symptoms depend on which area of the brain was affected by the stroke.

Dementia with Lewy Bodies: Lewy bodies, named after the scientist who discovered them, are tiny deposits of a protein that forms in the affected person’s brain. If these proteins form in the brain’s cortex, they develop dementia with Lewy bodies.

Parkinson’s Disease Dementia: People with Parkinson’s disease will develop dementia about 50% to 80% of the time, and usually about 10 years after they first are diagnosed. Those with Parkinson’s disease dementia also have signs of Lewy bodies in their brains.

Frontotemporal Dementia: Those with frontotemporal dementia have cell damage in the front and side of the brain. Scientists have discovered it runs in families with a certain gene mutation.

Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease: This extremely rare form of dementia progresses very quickly, and occurs when certain proteins in the brain called prions cause normal proteins to fold into abnormal shapes.

Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome: This syndrome is caused by a severe lack of Vitamin B-1. It usually occurs due to alcoholism.

Mixed Dementia: Mixed dementia means the person has more than one type of dementia. It most commonly is a mix of Alzheimer’s and vascular dementias.

Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus: This type of dementia is caused by fluid buildup in the brain as a result of a tumor, injury, bleeding, or infection.

Huntington’s Disease: The two types of Huntington’s disease, juvenile and adult onset, are the result of a genetic condition that causes premature nerve cell breakdown.

The symptoms of each type may be similar, depending on the affected area of the brain. That’s why it’s important to receive an accurate, timely diagnosis to receive proper treatment.

What are the Symptoms of Lewy Body Dementia?

Since Lewy body dementia covers both dementia with Lewy bodies and Parkinson’s disease dementia, the same brain changes cause each type. This means the symptoms might resemble Parkinson’s disease symptoms.

Here are the common symptoms of Lewy body dementia:

  • Memory loss
  • Difficulties with planning, problem solving, and decision making
  • Trouble focusing
  • Hallucinations
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Tremors, stiffness, and balance problems (Parkinsonism)
  • Decreased depth perception
  • Impaired hand-eye coordination
  • Delusions
  • Changes in mood and behavior
  • Acting out dreams during REM sleep
  • Fluctuations in body temperature and blood pressure

It’s important to remember Lewy body dementia affects each person differently and ranges in severity. If you notice any of the above symptoms in a loved one, take them to their doctor for evaluation.

What are the Causes of Lewy Body Dementia?

Lewy body dementia is caused by tiny deposits of the protein alpha-synuclein, which appear in nerve cells in the brain. 

Experts don’t fully understand why this occurs, but they understand it is linked to low levels of dopamine and acetylcholine, and a loss of connections between nerve cells. These Lewy bodies also are responsible for the development of Parkinson’s disease.

Those affected by Lewy bodies might experience their symptoms differently depending on where the proteins are in the brain. For example, Lewy bodies at the base of the brain are linked to issues with movement, which is the main feature of Parkinson’s disease.

Lewy bodies in the outer layers of the brain cause cognitive symptoms associated with a Lewy body dementia diagnosis.

How Do You Get a Lewy Body Dementia Diagnosis?

Your loved one’s diagnosis will be based on several tests, including a neurological and physical exam, an assessment of their memory and thinking skills, and blood tests, brain scans, or sleep tests.

Typically, there will need to be evidence of a decline in thinking abilities, as well as visual hallucinations, Parkinsonian symptoms, and sleep disorders before someone can officially be diagnosed with Lewy body dementia.

How to Find Excellent Memory Care for a Loved One

Treatments for Lewy body dementia might include certain medications to aid the brain, but first and foremost, non-drug approaches can create a better environment for your loved one.

In a loving memory care community such as The Kensington Redondo Beach, your loved one has many secure, comfortable options to preserve and increase quality of life. Two memory care neighborhoods — Connections and Haven — are designed to address the appropriate level of care depending on your loved one’s unique needs.

The Kensington Promise is to love and care for your family as we do our own. 

We took the assisted living model of care to a higher level, providing a full spectrum of clinical support. This means that your loved one can truly “age in place,” and never have to move out if their care needs change or advance.

Call us today to learn more about our loving team of professionals, who work tirelessly to ensure the safety and comfort of your family.